Up until now, Helix has been implausible and inconsistent, but still fun. The story samples from tropes of horror and science-fiction genres a bit haphazardly, but it has a sense of what a story needs to be, and even in its slow reveals it demonstrated excitement about its core mysteries, whatever those mysteries are (seriously, there are things I am still confused about).
“The Reaping” is just terrible, though. I don’t know how the show managed to stumble so badly. I’d been optimistic about the show up until now—looking over my grades for this season so far, every episode sits squarely in the B range, with the exception of “Level X.” There are elements of this show that will always be substandard and elements of this show that manage to be exciting, and the combination lands the show in the zone of average.
“The Reaping” is both oddly anticlimactic and weirdly disconnected from all that precedes it; it kills off one of the show’s best characters for familial drama that has little to no payoff. It brings back Peter from near-death without even engaging with him as a character. It has two of its purported central characters make light conversation about being immortal, as if it were akin to winning a free cruise. The characters in this show occasionally walk around and wonder, out loud, that it has only been 12 days since they arrived at the base and yet their lives have changed so much. It seems like this is the episode in which Helix is throwing its hands up in the air, too.
Most episodes of Helix so far have offered me at least one plotline to sink my teeth into. This episode gets close, sort of, which persuaded me to not fail it entirely. But aside from Miksa’s swansong—which signals pretty heavily that the show is tying up his loose ends before quickly dispatching him—this is a pretty boring episode. And that’s the final nail in the coffin, especially for a show like Helix—because what is the point of a show about silver-eyed immortal vampire people if it isn’t fun?
Worse, though, is that it sells out its characters, and erases the significance of stories that preceded it. My first inkling of this was watching Peter and Alan interact in a hallway outside the bunker, as Miksa and a few other randoms investigate the slaughter that the Scythe and his minions left in their wake. It took me by surprise—holy crap, this is Peter! Peter, who was a monkey-person running around in the ducts. Peter, who is the reason Alan and Julia split up. Peter, who is the reason that they came to Arctic in the first place. His eyes aren’t all black and crazy anymore and he walks around like a regular person having regular conversations.
Helix chooses to commemorate this miracle—which, can I just restate, is the resolution of the premise of the entire show—by ignoring it completely. Yup, Peter’s back, cool, what about this guy with a scythe, huh?
As the title indicates, “The Reaping” is entirely about a pretty juvenile plot to avoid the Scythe. Any character development or even resolution for Peter is limited to a few stilted conversations with my two favorite characters: Alan and Sarah. Alan can’t cast off his dour expression even for his brother’s resurrection; and Sarah’s character has bounced between super-genius, lovelorn fool, and naïve pretty girl for the entire season, so it’s not like she’s offering a lot of depth, either. Peter’s conversation with her is supposed to illuminate her character, but mostly it is just boring.
Peter doesn’t even talk to Julia in a serious way—he talks about her to Sarah, but that’s the extent of it (unless I missed something huge). Instead Julia saves her heart-to-hearts for Sarah and Miksa, which end up being two of the most bizarre conversations in the show. I’m interested in Julia as a character, and I’m excited to see her be immortal or whatever, but it was very, very strange to me that Julia and Sarah concluded that immortality is like totally the best, or whatever, for cosmetic reasons. Whee, you get to look 26 forever, as everyone you love dies and you grow weary of everything on the planet! There’s something here about how Julia and Sarah are optimistic about immortality when they shouldn’t be—as the creepy guy in the passages underneath told us a few episodes ago—but this is not a theme that is getting explored in this episode.
In fact, everyone seems to think immortality is a good thing, a great thing, the best thing for humanity. That’s interesting, too—it’s a complicated stance on a complicated subject. But the show isn’t offering an examination of it; it’s offering a conspiracy that relies on the assumption that it’s a good thing. I literally have misused the term “begging the question” every day of my life, but I am pretty sure that this is actually begging the question: It’s circular, at the very least. Which, fine; let’s get in there, into the discussion of what this type of science would mean for a society. But in order to do that, we have to actually engage the question, and Helix is handling that really badly. I don’t get why Helix is squandering its most interesting ideas and most interesting characters, but it’s very obvious in this episode.
As I said earlier, the only thing I found even remotely interesting was Miksa’s arc in this episode, which is punctuated by Julia’s second bizarre conversation, this time with him. Miksa expresses some sadness at being less important than she is to Hatake, and Julia says—to someone she’s known for 12 days!—“You can think of me as a sister.” That’s… really not normal. Miksa responds appropriately: “Thanks, but I already have a sister.” Sick burn, bro.
And then he sacrifices himself for Julia, which actually hurt to watch. First, because it’s such a dumb setup—choose between them while they’re behind glass with explosive collars around their necks, okay?—and second, because after what we’ve seen of Miksa-who-was-Daniel, he was a child who was kidnapped, brainwashed, used, and then discarded. I don’t doubt that Hatake loved him, but I also don’t doubt that Miksa had a sad childhood growing up in an Arctic lab, reading about the rest of the world through his Encylopedia Britannica.
And then, as soon as Miksa tosses out his life, the next plot twist is all about Julia—her mother is in cryogenic deep-freeze in a suitcase! Which, why?
Who knows! And frankly, who cares?
- Team Banana Update: Other Brother tells Ballesaros to back off. Ballesaros does back off, maybe? Anana gets angry and throws snow at her brother.
- Sonia’s Speculation Corner: I assumed the immortals couldn’t die at all, even if someone killed them—so I’m guessing the reason Hatake is beheading and freezing heads is because that’s the only way to keep them sort-of dead. Curious, though, that Constance’s son isn’t an abomination, while Hatake’s daughter is. And none of this really explains why all those kids went missing. Ugh.
- I do not find the Scythe interesting or scary.
- How unsurprising that the woman of color gets fridged! Helix, come on. Try a little harder.